Maserati appears certain to end long absences from the 24 Hours of Le Mans next year. The company aims to take advantage of the decision of the Le Mans organizer, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, to allow the same cars that will race in the new-for-2010 FIA GT1 World Championship to race in the 24 Hours. That means Maserati’s MC12, which will be allowed to race in modified form for one more season, will be eligible for Le Mans.
Meanwhile, Michael Bartels revealed that he plans to take up the guaranteed Le Mans entries his Vitaphone Maserati Racing team claimed for winning the FIA GT Championship in 2009. (see below)
“We have been trying to go to Le Mans with the MC12 since 2005 [when he established Vitaphone Racing],” he said. “The Maserati board is very supportive of the idea of racing there.”
Maserati team claims FIA GT championship at Zolder
Germany's Vitaphone Maserati team completed a perfect weekend in the FIA GT Championship finale at Zolder in Belgium, claiming the overall race win and the GT1-class drivers' crown.
Alessandro Pier Guidi and Matteo Bobbi dominated the two-hour event to notch their first victory together, while team boss Michael Bartels and Andrea Bertolini sealed the title with a conservative drive. Third place--behind their title rivals Mike Hezemans and Anthony Kumpen in the PK-Carsport Chevrolet Corvette--gave them the crown by two points. A 30-second time penalty imposed after the race did not affect their final finishing position.
Pier Guidi and Bobbi controlled the race from the start. Pier Guidi inherited pole position after Kumpen was penalized five grid places for a yellow-flag infringement in qualifying and drove away from his rivals.
The Italian was four seconds ahead after five laps, 13 seconds up after 10 laps and the better part of a minute ahead when he handed over to Bobbi. The final 20-second margin of victory barely did justice to their domination.
Hezemans and Kumpen reckoned they did the maximum in their attempt to become champions.
“To come from sixth on the grid to second was good, but it was the most we could do,” said Hezemans. “There was nothing we could do about a light Maserati when we had 60 kilograms [of success ballast].”
The PK-Carsport team carried out its prerace promise to protest Vitaphone, which it has accused of race-fixing this season. It protested Vitaphone on three counts, two of which are still outstanding on appeal.
Britain's Richard Westbrook claimed the GT2 crown with a class victory in the ProSpeed Porsche 911 GT3-RSR that he shared with Marco Holzer. The lead ProSpeed car dominated the race after taking the lead from the AF Corse Ferrari driven by Gianmaria Bruni after a dozen laps.
Westbrook said he had mixed emotions about winning the title without usual co-driver Emmanuel Collard, who Porsche moved over to the Brixia Racing 911 GT3-RSR to maximize the manufacturer's championship chances.
“I didn't want to go up on the podium without my regular teammate; it didn't feel real,” he said. “After I passed [Bruni], it was a pretty straightforward race.”
Bruni and Toni Vilander, who arrived at Zolder with a three-point lead, could only finish fourth in class. Their Ferrari was hamstrung by 50 kilograms of success ballast and another 50 kilograms for running two “platinum-rated” drivers; the extra weight resulted in braking problems and the need for fresh tires at each of its two pit stops.